Diocese of Portsmouth: Anglicans’ long journey to Rome nears its end

7 02 2011

Colin Parkes of the Diocese of Portsmouth reports on the Ordinariate in the Diocescan Magazine, Portsmouth People:

Here in the Diocese of Portsmouth, we are close to having a number of new Catholic neighbours. They are Anglicans in our area hoping to join the Catholic Church under the provisions of the Ordinariate announced more than a year ago by Pope Benedict.

These are exciting but uncertain times for them. Exciting because in Holy Week they should finally be received into full communion with the Church for which they have been yearning for a long time. Uncertain because it’s not yet clear how things will work in practice.

Under the arrangements announced by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference in November there are several stages. Already, by the time you read this edition of Portsmouth People, at least three former Anglican Bishops are likely to have been ordained as Catholic priests to serve in the Ordinariate. In this area, these include the former Bishop of Ebbsfleet, Andrew Burnham, who lives in Abingdon in the north of our diocese. Also Rome will have appointed an ‘Ordinary’ who will be responsible, together with the local Catholic bishop for the ongoing life of the Ordinariate.

Before the beginning of Lent, retired Bishops, including Edwin Barnes the former Bishop of Richborough who lives in Lymington, are also due to be ordained.

Also before the beginning of Lent former Anglican clergymen intending to lead groups of faithful into the Ordinariate will begin ‘a period of intense formation’ for ordination as Catholic priests. In this area, there are expected to be groups from Reading, the Isle of Wight and Christchurch, amounting to a few dozen people in all, though precisely how many is not yet clear.

During Lent, these groups, or candidates as they will be by then, will be prepared for reception into the Church, either on Holy Thursday or during the Easter Vigil. Their pastors, assuming all goes well, will be ordained into the Catholic Priesthood around Pentecost.

Although members of the Ordinariate will not be part of the main structure of our diocese, Bishop Crispian has been involved in making the local arrangements and they will be fellow local Catholics. And we are likely to bump into some of them in our churches. During Lent, before their own pastors are ordained, they may be joining us at Mass. Welcomers take note!

By the summer, the ordinariate groups could have their own Mass times in our churches. And, if they are using our buildings, they make it clear they would help with things like church cleaning and flower arranging. The clergy I have spoken to are all prepared to fill in for our own priests when they are on holiday, and hope that our priests will be able to do the same for them. They are anxious not to be seen, in the words of one, ‘as rather quaint, exotic groups.’

Will the Ordinariate be a temporary or a permanent structure? Former Bishop Andrew is disarmingly honest about this.

‘The first wave will be quite small, but it could be followed by many others, so the Ordinariate would grow.

‘It is also possible that it turns out not to be viable, in which case those in the Ordinariate would fold into the existing Catholic Community. In a way, it doesn’t greatly matter. The important thing is that those called to make the journey have the chance to do so.’

h/t to Reading Ordinariate Group